Addition by Subtraction

Troy Hawks - Senior Pastor | Real Life Ministries Arizona, Scottsdale, AZ

Some good friends just left our small group. And they aren’t coming back.

It’s been a little over six months since we invited them. Over that time we have had them in our home, barbecued together, and vacationed together. We celebrated together and walked through difficult situations together — taking our turns at both high fives and tears. We shared the joys and struggles of marriage and parenting. We pored over God’s Word and poured our hearts out in prayer.

I guess you could say we shared a good deal of our lives with them.

So what happened?

They grew.

And they left.

They were supposed to.

It would have been easy to stay. And comfortable too. For all of us. Truth be told, our small group is different now. But — and don’t miss this — so are they.

They saw the growth in themselves and their relationship with God. They understood following Jesus and being a disciple in a new way — and they owned it. And when they sensed a call, they mustered the courage to answer it. As a result they’ve gone from from invitees to inviters, from participants to leaders, from disciples to disciple makers, and a new small group was born.

Six months ago, they were intimidated by the idea of sharing God’s Word with someone and wondered whether they belonged. Today they are sharing His Word and what He is doing in their lives — and helping others find a place to belong.

The reality is this: they are going to reach people that they never would have reached had they remained in our group. They already have! It’s a big loss for our small group, but a big gain for the Kingdom. And that is what it’s all about: The Kingdom.

What did Jesus have in mind when He called the twelve disciples — and formed the New Testament’s first small group? A group that would stay together forever? Or more of an incubator where people would grow for a time before being released? Did they exist for themselves? Or for the purpose of reaching and impacting the world around them? (Jesus’ recruiting invitation in Matt 4:19 may help answer these questions.)

While Jesus and His disciples formed lifelong relationships, the focus was always on impacting others in the same way that Jesus had impacted them. They would carry His message, use His methods, and continue His mission. The future of the Kingdom and the Church depended on it.

Fortunately for us, the original disciples eventually came to understand this.

I was thinking this morning: what would it have looked like if the 11 remaining disciples had simply chosen to keep their tight knit group together and “do life” while waiting for Jesus to return?

Don’t get me wrong, eleven families doing life together and worshipping Jesus is a beautiful thing. But who would they have reached? How would it have had the Kingdom-expanding impact that Jesus intended for His disciples?

What if a small group was the vehicle Jesus intended to use to reach the world? Was it? How would it be different if your small group and your home became the way more and more people were introduced to a life of knowing, following, and being on mission with Jesus?

I can offer some ideas from the past six months. It would look like people growing in their faith. It would look like people finding purpose in the mission of Jesus’ church. Like people taking chances and seeing God use them. Like people discovering the joy of giving themselves away for the sake of another — and then someday releasing that “another” to go and do likewise.

These friends left our small group, but we haven’t left each other. We’re as committed to one another as we ever have been! We will continue to meet regularly to encourage and disciple them, take phone calls when they have questions, gather in our backyard for barbecues, and celebrate what God is doing in and through them. And, over the course of time, we will meet those they have reached and hear the stories of how their lives have been transformed.

This is discipleship. This is the Church.

The message of Jesus. The methods of Jesus. And the mission of Jesus.


Troy Hawks – Senior Pastor

Real Life Ministries Arizona
Scottsdale, AZ